Evoking family from the stage at HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening

HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening of Music and Poetry was even more of a family affair than usual this year. Normally an occasion that parents and adult children (and occasionally a third generation) attend in their Irish wool and finest green, this year’s Irish Evening featured two poets who themselves are family.

MeehanDurganPaula Meehan and Theo Dorgan have been poetry and life partners for decades. And from the stage on March 14, they talked about kindred, a word they used for Seamus Heaney, a huge presence of a poet who died August 2013 and who is being mourned throughout the literary world.

“Everyone feels like they’ve lost a member of their own family,” Meehan told Dorgan during that afternoon’s taping of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s writer-to-writer interview show.

From Heaney to sassy Irish grandmothers to uprising revolutionaries, family was called up throughout the evening reading.

Dorgan started off reading “Speaking to My Father,” about his hard-working patriarch and what he must have thought about Dorgan’s labors as a poet: “I move the words as you moved the heavy tires./ I make the poems like you and Rose made children,/ Blindly, because I must.” (more…)

Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins, “The Most Popular Poet in America”

Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, hocopolitso@yahoo.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English/World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival from Monday, April 21 to Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College (HCC). For the first time, this year’s festival opens with a four-day Poetry Film Festival featuring showings of five acclaimed films. The last day of the film festival coincides with a full day of Blackbird Festival events, including readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truths of poetry. (more…)

A Letter from Sama Bellomo

Events come and go. Audiences come and go. Sometimes we wonder how we are doing, if are reaching people, providing enough to help grow the world’s literary heritage person by person. This season, we received the following letter. How humbled and grateful we are.

Dear HoCoPoLitSo,

A thousand gratitudes have flown through my mind and I am sure that the count will grow further as the events of the day really sink in.

I get out so little that I have to select very carefully my activities beyond work and medical appointments.  That you have all taken the steps to include me, to be kind toward me, and to be well yourselves around me, speaks much to the ways in which simply being our best possible selves can help others be well also.

MailIt’s not that I felt treated more specially than anyone else, but that I felt treated as specially as everyone else.  It is so easy to feel different, exotic, unusual, especially with all the luggage I carry just to get through a day that it can be off-putting for me to feel like I must explain myself just to be among others. On top of that, another attendee complimented my “entourage,” that is, my friend, Jeffrey, and the interpreters, who accompanied me through the event so I could get through.

You can tell that many of my go-to sentences about my health are well rehearsed because the social stickiness of navigating life with multiple disabilities [Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Dysautonomia, and hearing loss] gets to be old hat somewhere around the bazllionth iteration.  All of this is pretty old hat for you because you are sensitive individuals with a clear idea of what it means to be aware of how we treat people, but it’s always nice to hear that our efforts and ways of being matter.  It means more when we are in those life spaces where we question ourselves, when self-assuredness is particularly thin.  Save this note for that moment.  If it’s not enough, call me, I’ll make more. (more…)

Temperament Through Time: a not to be missed (free) event THIS FRIDAY!

The latest installment in our occasional series of blog posts from friends of HoCoPoLitSo. Today, the acting chair of Howard Community College’s Music Department, Hsien-Ann Meng, encourages all to see Stuart Isacoff this Friday.

Dear Friends,

I would like to invite you to a special event taking place this Friday, February 21, at 2 pm in the Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College.

Stuart-Isacoff Flier

Click for full size image.

Stuart Isacoff, a wonderful pianist, celebrated writer of music, and the author of Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization, will be here to tell the intricate story of how modern musical tuning came about.  He will also demonstrate through a reworked Beethoven piano sonata how central the modern tuning system (equal-temperament) is for us to enjoy the master piano works of the 18th and 19th centuries.

However, the road to equal-temperament was not a simple one.  Isacoff has woven together a beautiful narrative that traces the development of the tuning system in the context of teachings and beliefs of the church, parallel developments in art and science, and the political plays between different power groups throughout history.  Whether you are a music lover or a lover of arts and science, there will be lots to take away from this event.

This event is free and open to the public.  After the lecture demonstration, Anne Midgette, the classical music critic for The Washington Post will join Stuart Isacoff on stage to conduct a Q&A session.  A book signing and reception will take place in the Rouse Art Gallery and Horowitz Center Lobby following the Q&A.  This event is co-presented by Candlelight Concert Society, Howard Community College Concert Series, and Howard County Poetry & Literature Society.

Hsien-Ann Meng
Acting Chair, HCC Music Department

A Warm, Spirited Evening is What We All Need and March 14th is Near.

Dear Friends,

IE 30 Years Poster

A selection of faces from the first 30 years of HoCoPoLitSo’s Irish Evening, now in its 36th year and to feature Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan reading from their work, followed by the music of Narrowbacks and traditional Irish dancing from the Culkin School on March 14th.

With the winter that has been upon us, a warm, spirited evening is what we seem to need and you’ll have just that this year on March 14th, HoCoPoLitSo’s 36th Annual Irish Evening.

You who love literature, music, and art are invited to hear the beautiful cadences of not only one but two wonderful Irish poets Paula Meehan (Ireland’s Professor of Poetry) and Theo Dorgan (O’Shaughnessy Prize, BBC Radio) as they read their work and pay tribute to the late great Seamus Heaney, followed by the incomparable Irish music of Narrowbacks, featuring All-Ireland fiddle great Brendan Mulvihill, and fabulous stepdancing by members of the Culkin School. Did I mention the profusion of Irish coffees, signature drink “Jameson Ginger,” and scones?

HoCoPoLitSo relies on proceeds from this annual fundraiser to create live literary programs throughout the year, so in buying tickets, you are not only giving yourself the gift of a fun and elevating evening but investing in the 2014 arts and culture calendar of Howard County.

Friday, March 14, 2014, 7:30 PM

Smith Theatre, Howard Community College, Columbia, Md.
Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/522437

Click here to download the event flyer. Additional information is available by emailing hocopolitso@yahoo.com or calling 443-518-4568. (more…)

Amiri Baraka – Friend of the Poet and HoCoPoLitSo Board Member David Barrett Reflects

Amiri Baraka, Miami Book Fair International, 2007 (via Wikipedia).

I had moved to Pittsfield, MA to work as a computer programmer programming the missile fire control system aboard the US nuclear submarine fleets Polaris and Poseidon. So, the summer of ’67 I watched the Newark uprisings on television and witnessed neighborhoods on fire, the very same streets I had frequented while I lived there.  I felt guilty for having left Newark, thinking that if I had stayed I might have been in a position to make a difference.  I was only a teacher with a history of activism with the Essex County CORE and the Rutgers branch of the NAACP.  Still, I might have been able to do something.

In November of ’67 I did return to Newark and, thus, began my long association with Amiri Baraka. That association included my membership in the Congress of African Peoples, community organizing to help elect Newark’s first black mayor, Ken Gibson, the presidency of the United Community Corporation, New Jersey’s largest anti-poverty agency, membership in the New Jersey delegation to The National Black Political Convention in Gary in 1972 and my candidacy twice for public office.

When moved to Maryland in 1974, I carried with me a love of poetry that Baraka had helped me cultivate.  Soon after, I began attending poetry readings sponsored by HoCoPoLitSo. That led to my joining the board and eventually doing ten-year stint as chairman. In 1990, we invited Baraka to read one weekend.  He was joined by Jonathan Yardley and Patricia Hempl to talk about memoir on a Friday and to read his poetry on Saturday.  That Monday, he read for 500 high school students at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia.

In 1998, HoCoPoLitSo sponsored Baraka to read at the Baltimore Book Festival. But he had also been booked to read at the Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey that same weekend.  We found out the day of the book festival that it would be impossible for him to catch a flight or drive to get to Baltimore in time for his reading.

Seeing my anxiety over the situation, my wife, Sandy, suggested that she might be able to find a plane to fly Baraka from Newark to a private airport in Maryland. Always resourceful, she did just that.  Using the yellow pages, under charter flights, she found a man with a plane, explained the situation, and negotiated a price.  I don’t recall how we got all this done without cell phones!

I waited for over an hour at a small private airport somewhere in northwest Maryland. Finally, a small four-seater, single engine airplane appeared in the sky and began its descent.  A door opened and out popped Baraka. He got in the car, and we sped down Route 83, exiting onto the 695 Beltway and made our way to Charles Street.  At this point, Baraka announced he had to get something to eat.  “I am diabetic,” he said.  I double parked just a block or two shy of the festival grounds in Mount Vernon while he jumped out and got some tea and a sandwich.  I got as close as possible to the tent where he was to read and he ran down the path leading to the overflowing tent just as he was being introduced.

Despite the arduous schedule of Dodge where he said he had to do everything but “tote that barge and lift that bale with short or no breaks in between” and the rather adventurous trip from Newark to Baltimore, he found the strength and managed to give a stirring reading.

I never did tell him how much his poetry and the other artists he featured at Spirit House (his residence that had a theater on the first level) influenced my love for poetry.  How he showed me the magic created when jazz and poetry meet.

So, I say so now.

Thank you, Amiri, for helping me to grow in poetry, in jazz, and in life.

– David Barrett

Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins, “The Most Popular Poet in America”

Date: December 20, 2013         Contact: Pam Kroll Simonson, (443) 518-4568, hocopolitso@yahoo.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Blackbird Poetry Festival Features Billy Collins,
“The Most Popular Poet in America”

Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English and World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Howard Community College. The all-day event features readings by two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times; workshops for HCC students by Bruce George, poet and co-founder of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; readings by student poets from HCC; and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem in Your Pocket Day. The theme of this year’s Blackbird Poetry Festival is “Poetry Unmasked,” exploring the bare truth of poetry.

“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, an independent literary group, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”

“His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry,” writes the Winter Park Institute for intellectual engagement at Rollins College. “His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience–enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio–includes people of all backgrounds and age groups.”

Collins will read and discuss his work at Nightbird, the Blackbird Poetry Festival’s evening event, at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Theatre, located in the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at HCC in Columbia. A book signing and reception will follow. Collins will give a short free reading at Smith Theater with student poets at 2:30 p.m. He will also tape an episode of The Writing Life, HoCoPoLitSo’s Bravo-TV Arts for Change Award-winning interview show seen on YouTube. George will facilitate creative writing/performance poetry workshops in morning classes at HCC.

Tickets to Nightbird are $50 for the first five rows in the center aisle and $30 for orchestra and balcony ($15 for students). Tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/523094 or www.hocopolitso.org . For more information, call HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or email hocopolitso@yahoo.com. Seniors in Columbia can request transportation by calling the Senior Events Shuttle at (410) 715-3087. HCC is an accessible campus. Accommodation requests should be made to HoCoPoLitSo by April 17, 2014.

HoCoPoLitSo is a nonprofit organization designed to enlarge the audience for contemporary poetry and literature and celebrate culturally diverse literary heritages. Founded in 1974 by National Book Award finalist Ellen Conroy Kennedy, HoCoPoLitSo accomplishes its mission by sponsoring readings with critically acclaimed writers; literary workshops; programs for students; and The Writing Life, a writer-to-writer interview show seen on YouTube, HCC-TV, and other local stations. HoCoPoLitSo receives funding from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts; Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County government; The Columbia Film Society; Community Foundation of Howard County; the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation; and individual contributors.

For a pdf of this press release, click here: Blackbird 2014 Press Release.

High School Student Tunes into Siobhan Fallon via HoCoPoLitSo’s The Writing Life.

October 16th marked my first experience with HoCoPoLitSo’s “The Writing Life”.

I’m an aspiring writer and high school senior, and this year I’m developing my craft under the mentorship of Dr. Tara Hart, creative writing professor at Howard Community College and Co-Chair of HoCoPoLitSo. She’d invited me to HCC-TV’s taping of a Writing Life episode with writer Siobhan Fallon, hosted by journalist Kristin Henderson, and I was excited to accept—I’d never been in a T.V. studio before.

On the morning of the taping the campus was bustling, and I wondered if the featured Howard County Book Connection project author, Siobhan Fallon, had had any trouble finding a parking spot.

My first thought when I arrived at the HCC TV studio room was that I was overdressed,—but that was okay—it actually made me more comfortable; perhaps I was drawn to the down-to-earth yet relaxed nature of it all.

Mrs. Fallon was wonderful. I learned with surprise that she currently lives in Abu Dhabi, and I tried (unsuccessfully, I think) to fathom what kind of jet lag she must’ve been feeling. Nevertheless, she was amicable and eager for her interview.

FallonTheWritingLifeHCCTVI got a peek into the room where the interview would be conducted, and I later marveled at how seamlessly the green screen behind the two arm chairs was turned into a sophisticated yet comfy library background. Being someone with little to no experience in TV and film, I thought it was pretty cool.

I sat in the “control room” while the taping was taking place, and not only was I able to listen to the interview (and watch it from three different camera angles), but I was able to hear the correspondence among the director and crew as well. I’m thankful for that, because I think it gave me a more well-rounded view of the entire production. Being a writer myself, I naturally emphasized the content of the interview with Ms. Fallon as the most important part of the taping, but now having seen both sides of the production I firmly believe that the technical aspect of it all is just as necessary and important.

That being said, the interview was wonderful. Siobhan Fallon is the author of the award-winning short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone, the content of which focuses on the emotional (and for most of us intangible) experience of military life. Ms. Fallon herself is a military wife, and I nearly choked up when she mentioned that soon her husband will be given leave for two years, and how wonderful it will be to have “such a long time to be together”.

But anyone writer could easily relate to her interview, as she gave wise and thought-provoking insight on the universal topics of fact versus truth, writing from different points of view, the short story versus the novel, and how personal experience ties into all writing, even fiction.

I almost got teary for a second time when she talked about care packages. Just a few days before I’d sent one to my nineteen-year-old cousin for his birthday; he’s serving in Afghanistan as an army medic. Hearing Mrs. Fallon speak so intimately about the military experience made me miss Jimmy more than ever, and I hope to share this post and the episode with him eventually.

All in all, my first experience with “The Writing Life” was personally and professionally gratifying in every way. I made some great new connections, with Ms. Fallon, with the TV crew, and with the other HoCoPoLitSo board members. They seemed so excited that I’d come, like it was their honor and not mine, and that just made me feel special.

I took a picture with Dr. Hart to commemorate the day, and left feeling satisfied and eager for the next episode. It was a lovely morning.

– Emily Bellor

The Best of It According to Some of Us.

TheBestofIt‘Tis the season for rankings and “best of”-lists.  Like this one by The New York Times or this one by Ron Charles for The Washington Post.

Last Saturday, the members of HoCoPoLitSo’s Board of Directors and staff met for our last meeting of the year.  And we, too, shared our list of “Best Thing I Read in 2013.”  So here it is!

And the grand winner of this list is Someone by Alice McDermott – named by three Board members and staff as their “Best Thing I Read in 2013.”  You know who else liked Someone?  NPR’s Maureen Corrigan – and you can see her picks for 2013 best books here.

Want to see more lists for best books?

Happy Readingdays!

-  Laura Yoo
Board Member

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Lit: Tickets to Billy Collins and the 36th Annual Irish Evening Available.

LetThereBeLitFlake
Another year where you have to find that certain someone something especially special?  HoCoPoLitSo is here to help.

This year, HoCoPoLitSo would like to make your life a little easier, giving you the opportunity to really delight your special someones with tickets to see Billy Collins or the 36th Annual Irish Evening, featuring Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan. Happy Holidays.

36th Annual Evening of Irish Music & Poetry

Featuring Paula Meehan & Theo Dorgan, The Narrowbacks, Step dancing
March 14, 2014 • Smith Theatre – HCC

MeehanDurganPoets Paula Meehan and Theo Dorgan will read from their latest works followed by a concert of traditional Irish music with Narrowbacks and step dancers from the Culkin School.

Dublin’s informal poet laureate, Ms. Meehan was recently named Irish Professor of Poetry. The post was created following the late Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1998. She is only the second women appointed to this position.

Theo Dorgan, a former director of Poetry Ireland, is also a poet, playwright, translator, editor and broadcaster. In 2010 he received The O’Shaughnessy Prize For Irish Poetry.

Purchase IE Tickets

The Blackbird Poetry Festival’s Nightbird Reading
With Billy Collins

April 24th • Smith Theatre – HCC

billy-collins-2012-448The Nightbird reading featuring two-term National Poet Laureate Billy Collins closes the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival. Called “the most popular poet in America” by The New York Times, Collins headlines the festival, which this year has the theme Poetry Unmasked.

“Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor,” writes The Poetry Foundation, “but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself.”

Purchase Billy Collins Tickets

LetThereBeLitSnow

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